Shaking off assumptions allows us to see truth in its totality and respond from our authentic places.
Shaking Off Assumptions
 March 18, 2014

Early in our relationship, I sometimes referred to my partner Greg as a “standard issue male.” While I viewed it was a term of endearment, he often called me out, saying it was disrespectful. It took me years to see how this label objectified both Greg and me. I standardized him into some sort of Ken doll and I disrespected myself by linking my own worth to my ability to "marry-up." 
My work in racial healing involves shedding light on assumptions made about people of color.  These assumptions fuel stereotypes that serve to exacerbate inequities and injustices.  And, as I learned through my experience with Greg, assumptions made of white people also impedes the truth and delays healing.
Gina Crosley-Corcoran in her article "Explaining White Privilege to a Broke White Person"  makes this same point when she explains her response to someone who called her privileged.  "When that (person) told me I had white privilege, I told her that my white skin didn't do s--t to prevent me from experiencing poverty....I came from the kind of poor that spent frigid winters without heat and running water....that made ramen noodles in a coffee maker..." She goes on to write "I can completely understand when broke white folks get p----d when the word 'privilege' is thrown around."
Still, Ms.Crosley-Corcoran admits that her skin color allows her certain privileges that people of color don't have. She writes of the intersections of race, gender, sexual orientation, class, ability, and citizenship and invites us to examine varying degrees of discrimination.
Ours is an experience of multiple systems of oppression at work. Healing, then, calls for courage to see truth in its totality and respond from more authentic places.
At a recent board retreat I was approached by one of the board members, a woman of color, who questioned my business partner Sandra's role. "What is that white woman doing here?  She thinks she can come in here with her PhD and tell us how to run our programs?  I don't think so."  I asked the board member to trust me and trust the process.  She gave me a suspicious look and took her seat.
I didn't tell Sandra about the interaction and opened the meeting with my normal introductions and dedications. Sandra's dedication was to her grandfather, who worked in the coal mines of Western Pennsylvania from the age of nine.  A mining accident left him deaf and she spoke of how his sacrifices and struggles taught her compassion and understanding.
At the break, the board member apologized to me for pre-judging Sandra.  "She's one of us," the board member said. Shaking off assumptions didn't take years. In this case, took two minutes with a story told from the heart which, in turn, cleared the way for healing to occur.
Promise yourself that you will endeavor to shake off the assumptions you make of others, starting perhaps with those closest to you.  When we seek to see truths from many sides, we clear the way for the creation of authentic and beloved communities. 


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